Toward a Proper Understanding of the Scriptures
Dan Rogers, III
Locust Grove, Oklahoma
In Ephesians 5:17 Christians are admonished: "Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." This divine advice should be heeded by all for an understanding of the Scriptures is essential in the life of every child of God. As Jesus so states, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). If one is to attain the eternal reward of heaven, then he must do God's will. However, one can not do God's will if he does not know and understand it. Thus, we see the importance of understanding the Scriptures.
As one seeks to properly understand the Scriptures, the basic principles of biblical interpretation cannot be ignored. If they are, one will not come to a correct understanding of God's word. There are a number of important principles of biblical interpretation that must not be ignored. Of these, we especially want to consider two in particular.
First, in order to understand the teaching of the Scriptures concerning any subject, all Scriptures that deal with that subject must be taken into consideration. When one fails to do this, the result is error. To illustrate this principle, let us consider the subject of salvation. In general, the religious world teaches that salvation is by faith only. Such a conclusion is reached because of passages such as John 3:16, Acts 16:31, and Eph. 2:8, which emphasize faith. Admittedly, if this were all that the Scriptures taught concerning salvation, then the conclusion that salvation is by faith only would be valid. However, this is not all that the Scriptures have to say in regard to salvation. Other passages, such as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, and Rom. 10:9-10, to mention only a few, indicate that in addition to faith, the acts of repentance, confession, and baptism are also essential to salvation.
Unfortunately, the religious world chooses to ignore these passages, considering only those passages that deal with faith. As a result, due to their failure to consider all of the Scriptures dealing with salvation, they are engulfed in soul-condemning error. Indeed, as can be seen from this, if one is to understand the teaching of the Scriptures concerning any given subject, then all Scriptures that deal with that subject must be taken into consideration.
Then notice a second principle. Anytime passages of Scripture are seemingly .contradictory, we have an indication that something is terribly wrong with our exegesis. Either the Scriptures are in fact contradictory, or else one's understanding and interpretation of those Scriptures is erroneous. For some, the choice as to which is the correct alternative may be difficult. However, if one believes all of God's word to be truth (John 17:17; Psa. 119:160), and if he believes that every Scripture is indeed inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), the choice is anything but difficult. The problem lies, not with the Scriptures, but with that one's interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures.
As an illustration of this, let us once again consider those who advocate the doctrine of faith only. Indeed, the passage of Eph. 2:8 states: "For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." It is one thing to accept the passage as Paul stated it, but it is quite another thing to interpret the passage to mean salvation by faith only. To interpret Eph. 2:8 as teaching salvation by faith only is to contradict what other passages of Scripture teach. For example, consider Mark 16:16. The passage states: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved . . . ." If, as according to the interpretation of many, salvation is by faith only, Mark 16:16 contradicts Eph. 2:8. On the one hand, if salvation is by faith only, it is not by faith and baptism. On the other hand, if salvation is by faith and baptism, it is not by faith only. Which is it? Both passages are in the New Testament.
Obviously, as already stated, in that the Scriptures are inspired of God, they are not contradictory. In any instance where the Scriptures are seemingly contradictory, the problem is that, rather than the Scriptures being contradictory, one's interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures is erroneous. As such, when the Scriptures are properly interpreted and understood, there will be no seeming contradiction.
As Paul stated in 2 Tim. 2:15, "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth." Many, including liberal brethren, are not properly handling God's word and do not have a proper understanding of it because they do not follow the above basic principles. If they only would, much denominational error and much liberal error among brethren could be quickly removed from the lips of men. "Wherefore, be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is!"
Truth Magazine XXI: 46, p. 722